General Information on Canada

General Information on Canada

Key Facts
The Canadian way of life
Geography
Climate
History
People
Major Cities in Ontario
Canada's Multicultural Heritage
Languages
Political System
Canada's Economy
Canadian Symbols

 
Key Facts
Capital City: Ottawa
Type of Government: Constitutional monarchy
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor General Michaëlle Jean
Head of Government: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Official Languages: English and French
Area: 9,976,140 km2
Population: 32.5 million
Religion: Roman Catholic 45%, Protestant and other 55%
Currency: Canadian Dollar ($CAD)
Number of Time Zones: 6
Weights and Measures: Metric system

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The Canadian way of life
Canada is an immense country. It is very diverse in its people, its landscape, its climate, and its way of life. However, Canadians do share the same important values. These values guide and influence much of our everyday life. These are values of pride, a belief in equality and diversity and respect for all individuals in society. Women, men, children and seniors are all equally respected in Canada. Canadians may be different from each other but it is these shared values that make Canada a friendly, caring, peace loving and secure society in which to live.

For nine consecutive years (1994-2002), a United Nations survey found Canada to be among the top three places in the world to live. Conducted every year, the survey evaluates quality of life in 174 countries, using over 200 performance indicators. Canada earned particularly high marks for its access to education, high life expectancy (due to universal health care system); and low crime and violence rates. Canada continues to remain in the top five on the list. In addition, Canada's largest cities -- Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal -- have been recognized as world-class cities in which to live and work, for their cleanliness and safety and for their cultural activities and attractive lifestyles.

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Geography
Canada is the world’s second-largest country (9,976,140 km2), surpassed only by the Russian Federation. The country is encased by the world’s longest coastline. Distances in Canada can be vast. Consider the Trans-Canada Highway, which at 7,821 km long is longer than the distance from London to Bombay. More than 50 percent of Canada’s land is blanketed with rich forest ranges, accounting for 10 percent of the world’s remaining forests and 20 percent of the world’s remaining wilderness areas.

Canada is made up of ten provinces and three territories. The provinces from west to east are: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and furthest east, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The territories are the Yukon, the Northwest Territories (NWT), and Nunavut, Canada’s newest territory, formed in 1999 out of the eastern part of the NWT and the homeland of the native Inuit.

Canada’s terrain incorporates a number of mountain ranges: the Torngats, Appalachians and Laurentians in the east; the Rocky, Coastal and Mackenzie ranges in the west; and Mount St. Elias and the Pelly Mountains in the north. At 6,050 m, Mount Logan in the Yukon is Canada’s tallest peak.

There are some two million lakes in Canada, covering about 7.6% of the Canadian landmass. Canada shares four of the five Great Lakes, the largest sources of fresh water in the world, with the United States. The largest lake situated entirely in Canada is Great Bear Lake (31,326 km2) in the Northwest Territories.

At 3,058 km long, the St. Lawrence is Canada’s most important river, providing a seaway for ships from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. The longest Canadian river is the Mackenzie, which flows 4,241 km through the Northwest Territories.

Canada has six time zones. The easternmost, in Newfoundland, is three hours and 30 minutes behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The other time zones are the Atlantic, the Eastern, the Central, the Rocky Mountain and, farthest west, the Pacific, which is eight hours behind GMT.

Despite the enormous size of this country, approximately 80 percent of all the people in Canada live in a concentrated area of cities and towns within 100 kilometres of the U.S. border.

Region
Province/Territory
Capital
Atlantic Region
Newfoundland and Labrador
St. John’s
Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown
Nova Scotia
Halifax
New Brunswick
Fredericton
Central Canada
Quebec
Québec
Ontario
Toronto
Prairie Provinces
Manitoba
Winnipeg
Saskatchewan
Regina
Alberta
Edmonton
West Coast
British Columbia
Victoria
North
Nunavut
Iqaluit
Northwest Territories
Yellowknife
Yukon Territory
Whitehorse

Source: CIC Canada. “A look at Canada”.

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Climate
The image of Canada as a frigid northern climate is not totally accurate. Canada’s climate is as varied as its topography, and this great expansive country includes a collection of extremes. Much of the north, which is virtually uninhabited, has an arctic climate that is particularly harsh, and ground that is permanently frozen. Canada's most populous regions, which lie in the country's south along the U.S. border, enjoy four distinct seasons. In most of the country, winter lasts longer than summer; yet when summer comes, even in the north, it can be very hot, producing lush growth. Rainfall varies from light to moderate, and there are heavy snowfalls in some areas.

Ontario has a wide variety of weather conditions. In the south, where most of the population lives, winters are less severe because of the moderating influence of the Great Lakes. Summers are also longer in the south but more humid as well. Mean daily temperatures reach close to 20ºC from mid-June to mid-September, with week-long heat waves in the 30s not an uncommon occurrence. Warm, sunny days and crisp, cool nights make the fall season popular. However, lows of -25ºC are not uncommon in winter. More moderate temperatures are the norm in spring and fall.

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History
As early as 40,000 years ago, Canada’s first inhabitants crossed what is now the Bering Strait. For thousands of years, the aboriginal population flourished in Canada. The first fully documented exploration by Europeans was that of John Cabot with an English expedition in 1497. France made one of its first claims in 1534, when Jacques Cartier landed on the Gaspé Peninsula and sailed up the St. Lawrence River. The early French settlers populated what was known as Lower Canada, in present-day Quebec. The French claimed Canada for King Louis XIV and the British made similar claims for the English monarch. These conflicting claims set the stage for nearly two centuries of warfare, and are still felt today in the struggle for independence by some in the French-speaking population of the province of Quebec.

Following the British victory over the French in 1763, Canada became a British colony. The British divided the land into provinces as the number of settlers grew. In 1867, Canada’s eastern provinces - Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick joined together to sign the British North American Act, making Canada a confederation of states under British rule. Canada commemorates this occasion, by celebrating its official birthday annually on July 1. The last of the western provinces, Alberta, joined the confederation in 1905. Canada became a self-governing member of the British Commonwealth in 1931. Newfoundland became the last province of Canada in 1949, after previously being a British colony. Canada gained complete independence from the laws of Britain with the Constitution Act of 1982.

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People
Canada’s population is over 30 million with the vast majority (77%) living in cities and towns. The largest cities in Canada are: Toronto (4.44 million), Montréal (3.33 million), Vancouver (1.89 million), Ottawa-Hull, the National Capital Region (1.03 million).

In the 1996 census, about 19% of the population reported "Canadian" as their single ethnic origin, with 17% reporting British Isles-only ancestry and 9% French-only ancestry. About 10% reported a combination of British Isles, French, or Canadian origin, with another 16% reporting an ancestry of either British Isles, French or Canadian in combination with some other origin. Some 28% reported origins other than the British Isles, French or Canadian.

In 1996, about 3% of Canadians belonged to one or more of the three Aboriginal groups recognized by the Constitution Act, 1982: North American Indian, Métis, or Inuit. Of this percentage, about 69% are North American Indian, 26% Métis, and 5% Inuit.

By 2017, 23% of Canada’s population will consist of visible minorities. China and India are Canada’s two largest sources of immigrants, but others include Korea, the Middle East and Western Asia. The country’s official policy of multiculturalism allows people to celebrate their ethnic heritage as well as promotes racial and social harmony. The effect has created a diversity of cultures, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto, where the most of the minorities live.

According to a recent census, more than four-fifths of Canadians are Christian, with Catholics accounting for about 45% of the population and Protestants about 35%. Other religions include Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Some 12.5%, more than any single denomination except Roman Catholic, have no religious affiliation at all.

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Major Cities in Ontario
In 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa, Ontario as the site of the nation’s capital, in part because it was remote enough from the then-hostile southern neighbour and because of its central location between English- and French-speaking Canada. Ottawa is the center of a 4,000-square-kilometre National Capital Region that includes neighbouring Hull, across the Ottawa River in the province of Quebec. The federal government is the dominant employer, accounting for roughly 100,000 jobs in the area, followed by high technology, life sciences, and biotechnology. The Ottawa region is home to many of Canada’s spectacular art galleries and museums, including the National Art Gallery and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The city’s residents enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in Canada, an abundance of cultural and recreational activities, and some of the country’s most reasonable housing prices. There are a plethora of cultural festivals and celebrations, dance performances, and arts and crafts shows to be taken advantage of year-round. Ottawa’s Canadian Tulip Festival, with its three million tulips, is a welcome taste of spring. In the wintertime, Gatineau Park offers 35,600 hectares of glorious ski trails that also attract swimmers, hikers, picnickers, birdwatchers and cyclists during the warmer months.

Southwestern Ontario is the hub of the densely populated consumer market and industrialized area in Canada commonly referred to as the "Golden Horseshoe" of which St. Catharines is a part. New residents moving to St. Catharines can look forward to affordable housing, top grade education facilities, terrific transportation, beautiful parks and gardens, excellent recreation and cultural pursuits. We are famous for our fruit tree blossoms in late May, our wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables, and our many renowned wineries. Two famous theatre festivals are found within the region: the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the world renowned Shakespearian Festival in Stratford.

Toronto is the capital of Ontario, and the business center of Canada. Financial services, high technology, and insurance companies top the list of businesses represented there. Toronto is home to more top-ranked international companies than any other Canadian city. According to the United Nations, Toronto is the most ethnically diverse city in the Western Hemisphere. The city sparkles with life; its center remains vibrant while its residential area consists of a patchwork of ethnically-flavoured neighbourhoods—Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown, Little India, to name a few.

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Canada's Multicultural Heritage
Canadians are proud of their multicultural heritage. In Canada, many different cultural and ethnic groups live and work together in harmony and tolerance. Canada's diversity is encouraged by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. These laws say that all Canadians are free to promote and share our multicultural heritage.

Another major component of Canada's multicultural heritage is the existence of aboriginal people in Canada. Aboriginal people lived in Canada thousands of years before the first immigrants arrived. Aboriginal people of Canada enjoy certain additional rights to protect their cultures and languages and to become self-governing.

St. Catharines has an annual Folk Arts Festival in May of each year that features a parade and open houses sponsored by locals from countries around the world. These open houses feature music, dancing, artifacts, and food from the countries represented. It’s a great way to learn about the many cultures represented in St. Catharines!

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Languages
Canada has two official languages: English, the mother tongue of about 59% of Canadians; and French, the first language of 23% of the population. A full 18% have either more than one mother tongue or a mother tongue other than English or French, such as Chinese, Italian, German, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Ukrainian, Arabic, Dutch, Tagalog, Greek, Vietnamese, Cree, Inuktitut, or other languages.

The Official Languages Act makes French and English the official languages of Canada and provides for special measures aimed at enhancing the vitality and supporting the development of English and French linguistic minority communities. Canada's federal institutions reflect the equality of its two official languages by offering bilingual services.

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Political System
Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a federal state with a democratic parliament. The Parliament of Canada, in Ottawa, consists of the House of Commons, whose members are elected, and the Senate, whose members are appointed. On average, members of Parliament are elected every four years.

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Canada's Economy
Canada’s economy is made up of many different industries. There are three main types of industries in Canada: natural resources, manufacturing and services.

1. Natural resource industries include forestry, fishing, agriculture, mining and energy. These industries have played an important part in the country’s history and development. Today, the economy of many areas of the country still depends on developing natural resources.

2. Manufacturing industries make products to sell in Canada and around the world. Manufactured products include paper, technological equipment, automobiles, food, clothing and many other goods. Our largest international trading partner is the United States.

3. Service industries provide thousands of different jobs in areas like transportation, education, health care, construction, banking, communications and government. More than 70 percent of working Canadians now have jobs in service industries.

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Canadian Symbols

The Maple Leaf

The maple leaf was used as a symbol of Canada as early as 1700. Since February 15, 1965, a red maple leaf has been on the national flag of Canada. It has become our most well-known and important symbol.

Other Symbols

The beaver is one of the symbols of Canada. It appears on the five-cent coin. Beavers are known to be hard-working

In 1965, Canada adopted its official red and white flag with the maple leaf.

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